April 5, 2017
The 2016-17 season is the 20th anniversary of head coach Boo Major’s tenure at the University of South Carolina. As the Gamecocks prepare for the 2017 NCEA Championship event, GamecocksOnline.com will look back on some of the biggest victories of Major’s career, including today’s feature, spotlighting Ruth Sorrel’s appearance in the 2000 ISHA National Championship.
Long before the University of South Carolina equestrian program was winning Southeastern Conference and national championships, and in fact before varsity equestrian was even an official sport at the University, head coach Boo Major was in charge of an upstart club program competing in the IHSA ranks. Though the sport was still in its formative stages, the competitions meant just as much then as they do now to Major and her dedicated pupils, and one of those student-athletes, Ruth Sorrel, did more than just earn one of the first early titles for the fledgling program. She also planted the seeds that would lead to a career helping to grow the sport at the collegiate level.
In the IHSA days, western riders (and even some of their English teammates, on occasion) would compete in both horsemanship and reining. Sorrel, a team captain during her senior season of 1999-2000, made history for the young program by becoming the first Gamecock to win the western title at both the Region II tournament in Rome, Ga., and then, facing other regional champions, the Zone V Finals in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
As the Zone V, Region II High Point Rider, Sorrel became the first Gamecock to compete on the western side at IHSA Nationals. In her final collegiate competition, Sorrel stood in fourth after the reining portion of the event and placed seventh overall.
But Sorrel’s contribution to the sport of collegiate equestrian did not end with her graduation. After earning her B.S. from the Darla Moore School of Business in 2000, Sorrel served as an assistant coach at both Fresno State and Auburn before returning to her alma mater in 2005. She is now in her 12th season as the team’s associate head coach in charge of the western squad.
With Sorrel serving as Major’s right hand, the Gamecocks won national titles in 2007 and 2015 along with SEC crowns in 2013 and 2014. Carolina student-athletes have combined for 17 NCEA All-America honors since 2011, with Johnna Letchworth earning 2013 and 2014 SEC Horsemanship Rider of the Year accolades and Caroline Gute earning SEC Reining Rider of the Year this season.
WHAT THEY SAY NOW
“I don’t know if I can find the words to describe what it’s been like to see this sport and our program grow like it has. It’s unbelievable. The transition has been awesome. I’ve always been a team person, so to be here on the team from 1998 until 2000 was an awesome experience for me. Some of my best friends are from that team, and it’s been neat to grow with Boo, because the program was in just its second season when I got here. Boo and I work on everything together, and to be able to put together what we talked about in 1998 and see her vision become a reality is incredible. She’s a great leader, and a great friend.”– Ruth Sorrel
“Way back when, when we were a fledgling program, and I was getting my feet wet in the process of being a head coach, I really looked to some of the folks that were seniors that year. Those girls helped set the pace for the rest of the time. Ruth was very competitive. We did not have a great western program at the time, so it was a compliment to her for her to be able to win the Zone V championship.” – Coach Major